Pet Breast Cancer: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month For Pets Too!

I remember one of my grandmother’s farm dogs suffering from massive breast tumors. But I wasn’t aware until years later while working as a vet tech that pet breast cancer is common. And deadly.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for humans, and it’s also National Pet Wellness Month. I doubt that anyone in today’s world hasn’t been touched by this disease either personally or by knowing someone who has.

But did you know cats and dogs get pet breast cancer? And some of the research for people helps cats and dogs–and vice versa.

 

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Toy and Miniature Poodles have a higher risk of breast cancer than some other breeds.

Cats & Dogs Affected by Pet Breast Cancer

Pet breast cancer accounts for half of the cases of canine cancer, and about 50 percent of canine breast tumors are malignant. High-risk breeds include the Poodle, English Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, German Shepherds, Maltese and Yorkshire Terriers, while low-risk breeds for mammary cancer include the Boxer and Chihuahua.

The older the dog, the greater the risk of tumors. Most canine mammary tumors occur in unspayed dogs more than 10 years old. It’s less common in dogs younger than five.

pet breast cancerCats & Pet Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is not as common in cats as in dogs, but it’s more deadly in felines. Nearly 90 percent of feline breast tumors are malignant. Male cats and dogs almost never get mammary cancer.

The cause of pet breast cancer remains unknown. However, because it affects certain breeds more commonly, genetics are thought to play a role. Recent research indicates that certain genes are overexpressed in dogs with this condition.

You can learn more about cancers, diagnosis and treatments in my aging pet books, Complete Care for Your Aging Dog or Complete Care for Your Aging Cat.  

Get your HARDCOVER with a paw-tograph and a DEEEEEEP DISCOUNT here!

Get your HARDCOVER book with a paw-tograph at a DEEEEP DISCOUNT at this link!

EARLY SIGNS OF BREAST PROBLEMS

In almost all cases, you will find the lump or bump on your cat or dog while petting her. Breast exams, particularly for older female cats and dogs, are a great idea because they can detect lumps and bumps very early. Survival time depends on the size of the tumor when first treated. The smaller the tumor when treated, the better the chance your pet will do well.

Therefore, it’s extremely important to have your veterinarian evaluate potential problems immediately. Never settle for a “wait and see” approach—that gives cancer more time to grow and spread, and reduces the chance of a good treatment outcome. Isn’t it better to find out that your dog’s lump was nothing to worry about than to discover too late that it’s cancer and no longer treatable?

BREAST CANCER TREATMENT IN PETS

The standard treatment for mammary tumors is surgical mastectomy (removal) of the affected glands. That may be a single breast or multiple breasts (usually) on one side of the abdomen. Your regular veterinarian may be able to perform this surgery, or you may wish to contact a veterinary oncologist.

Holistic pet therapy also can help, often in conjunction with conventional treatments. Sometimes chemotherapy is suggested in addition to the surgery if not all of the tumor can be removed and/or if it has already spread. Some veterinary cancer specialists recommend using chemotherapy first to help shrink the tumor before it is surgically removed.

Please remember that cats and dogs don’t lose their hair, and rarely feel sick during chemotherapy treatment. Pets don’t even know they’re sick, so they don’t become upset just at the mention of the “C-WORD” that fills people with terror.

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Siamese cats have a higher incidence of pet breast cancer than other cats.

Preventing Pet Breast Cancer–YES, YOU CAN!

Unlike some other cancers where a roll of the dice seems to decide who will be affected, mammary cancer can be prevented—or the risk drastically reduced—in our pets. Spaying female dogs before their first heat cycle will nearly eliminate the risk. Intact (un-spayed) dogs will have seven times greater chance of developing mammary cancer.

Cats benefit from spaying prior to first heat, too, and spaying before 6 months gives cats 91 percent lower risk compared to unaltered cats. There’s still a benefit to spaying up until two years (about 11 percent less risk), but if you wait any longer the incidence of mammary tumors is the same as unaltered cats. Siamese cats have two times greater risk of developing breast cancer than other cats and at a younger age. Add breast checks to your happy healthy cat month checklist.

Belly Rubs for Health!

Cancer tends to be a disease of aging pets. Starting this month, I hope everyone will pay more attention to their cats and dogs, starting with breast exams. I promise, your pet will thank you for the extra tummy rub.

Have your pets been touched by cancer? Often I’m told the dogs and cats who go through this prove to be inspirational to their human families, living in the moment and still finding joy despite health challenges. What advice would you offer pet lovers who must face such trials? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Why Do Dogs Roll on Poop and Like Stinky Nasty Schtuff

why dogs roll in poopDoes your dog roll in poop? We lived on the river when I grew up, and our Shelties always loved to find dead fish and roll in the stink. Here in Texas, our German Shepherd loved to visit the next-door neighbor horse, and not only roll in nasty stuff, but sometimes even EAT the crap, ew! Learn why dogs eat poop and how to stop it in this post.

Why Dogs Roll On Their Backs

I’ve written about why dogs roll on their backs before. This behavior signal can be used during play, or as way to diffuse a perceived danger. Rolling on their back to expose the tummy and genitals, with submissive urinating, signals “no threat” like a canine version of crying uncle. Here’s a fun Ask Amy video covering the topic.

Why Do Dogs Roll In Poop and Other Nasty Smells?

Dogs live through their noses, and certain pungent scents prompt rolling behavior in some dogs. This scent ecstasy is like what cats experience when exposed to catnip. Doggy indulgence is a good bit more noxious and tends toward offal.

When a dog finds what he considers an attractive odor, he rolls to rub his shoulders, back, and neck into the offering. Nobody knows for sure why dogs roll in nasty things like rotting garbage, dead animals, or feces. Experts theorize that perfuming themselves with strong, pungent scents may allow the dog to carry the smelly message home, so other dogs can “read” all about it. Here’s also a fun Ask Amy video on the topic with some suggestions how to manage the nasty habit.

So, do your dogs roll in (ahem) crappiocca? How do you manage the situation? Please share your tips in the comments section.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Fostering Kittens? Cats & Kittens Thrive with Training, Socialization, & Love

Fostering Kittens & Tips for Kitten Training

Fostering kittens and cats includes socializing kittens to help them become wonderful pets. Love helps but isn’t enough. Nothing trumps kittens for furry love. But when kitten season rolls around, local animal shelters drown in a furry tide of cats of all ages that need adoption. Kittens can become pregnant as early as 4-5 months of age! Yes, babies having babies–that explains the bumper crop of kittens, right? Learn more about kitten development in this post.

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One of 30 kittens at an adoption event where I was asked to take pictures…this baby was adopted, YAY! Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Thank heavens for fostering kittens, dedicated shelter staff, and you–yes, YOU, one of the folks who volunteer, visit to help socialize the pets, donate your time or toys, or just SHARE this message to help give cats a paws up. Just spreading good information about care helps ensure kitties get the best chance for adoption. Y’all do the work of the angels.

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Bottle babies abound during kitten season! Image courtesy of Tonya Jensen

KITTEN SOCIALIZATION & CAT TRAINING

Yes, kittens (and cats) CAN be trained! I know that I’m preaching to the choir. Never doubt that you can make a positive difference while fostering, helping the babies through proper socialization.

In many cases, the new kitten will join an existing cat lover’s home and need introduction help. They may even get adopted by a family with DOGS! Learn about dog to cat intros here.

While we teach human kids the three Rs, kitten socialization involves learning the Three Ts.

Touching

Touch the baby all over gently with pets, handling the ears, paws, tummy and more. Being taught that touch is pleasant helps with bonding to people, and hearkens back to how Mom-Cat cared for her babies. A kitten that accepts and trusts handling will be less stressed by veterinary exams, and so get proper timely care as she grows up.

Talking

Kittens don’t use words to communicate but will need to pay attention to humans who do talk. She won’t understand all your words but certainly understand the emotion. You can teach kittens to pay attention to humans simply by responding to them with the same words and phrases each time. Try saying, “You’re beautiful.” or “I love you.” or “I’ll keep you safe, baby.” And mean it–and she’ll understand, and blossom and BECOME beautiful, and more confident.

Timing

Available on all Ebook, audio, and print book platforms!

Kittens and adult cats pay exquisite attention to the details of their life. They easily learn consequences when they make mistakes (or do something right) if you tell them THAT is what I like, or THAT is not acceptable. Since cats do NOT respond well to punishment, think about catching kittens and cats in the act of doing something RIGHT and rewarding the behavior with praise, toys, healthy treats, or praise. Give the reward immediately–timing is key–to ensure good communication.

I include socialization details (and more) in my award-winning COMPLETE KITTEN CARE book (hardcover now discounted in time for the holidays!).

Do you volunteer at your local shelter? Do you foster? How did you find your kitty-of-your dreams? Do tell! Read more tips here about adopting kittens.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Matchmaking Tips for Cats & Dogs & Introducing Pets

Do you know how to introduce dogs to cats? Or how to choose the right pet for your existing pet home? This past week’s behavior consults included a family with two cats wanting to introduce a young German Shepherd to their life. The couple has had lots of dog and cat experience but wanted specific tips to smooth the transition and keep their kitties happy and safe.

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

I applaud anyone willing to take these steps! It reminded me of years ago, when we introduced our eight-week-old eleven-pound Magical-Dawg to nine-year-old seven-pound Seren-Kitty. Every pet home has a different dynamic, and even previously dog-friendly cats may not take kindly to a new (scary-smelling-acting) stranger pooch. Here are some considerations when choosing a new furry love to join your existing pet family.

CATS & DOGS MATCHMAKING TIPS

Easy-going dog breeds that don’t view smaller critters as LUNCH! make the best doggy friends for cats. You can also predict some behaviors with puppy temperament tests.

A dog already socialized to a cat is best. Learn more about puppy development and socialization in this post. Adult cats that have already lived with and been socialized to dogs also help speed up the introduction process. Kittens that are clueless may be more accepting of a new dog friend, especially if they’ve seen Mom-Cat be friendly with those weird-smelling bark machines. Learn more about kitten development here, and also choosing kittens in this post.

Be aware that dogs’ and cats’ body language can mean contradictory things, so YOU need to interpret for them. Wagging dog tails invite you closer, but wagging cat tails warn you away. Just be sure your dog doesn’t get a face full of claws for being too nosy–that’s a terrible way to start a relationship.

Both pets need to be healthy. Cats need preventive care just like dogs do, and kitties that feel under the weather from illness or being spayed/neutered need time to recover before meeting the dog.

Savvy dog folks know that dog-to-dog intros work best on neutral territory–that’s outside your home, perhaps at a park. But cat intros for safety reasons need to happen INSIDE the house, so there are some clear differences in setting up the steps. You’ll find lots more details and how-to help for dealing with cat-dog challenges in my ComPETability(Cats-Dogs) book, but here are tips for getting started to build your very own peaceable kingdom between cats and dogs.

Read for more details about introducing cats to cats, refer to this post.

NEW-CatDogCompet-lorezHOW TO INTRODUCE CATS TO DOGS

  • Sequester the new pet in a single room with all the necessary accouterments (bed, litter box, chew toys, etc). Choose a room with a door that shuts completely, such as a second bedroom. Isolating the new pet tells your resident pets that only a small portion of the house has been invaded, not all the territory. Isolate the new pet in this one room for at least a week.
  • Expect cats to posture or hiss and dogs to sniff, whine, growl or bark on each side of the closed door. Feel encouraged once the barking and hissing fade, the canine “play-bows” at the door, or the pair play patty-cake-paws under the door.
  • After the new pet has been in the room alone for a few days, and any hisses or growls have faded, bring out something the new pet has scented. Choose something like a plate of food where she just ate. Allow your dog to smell it. THAT’LL bring on the wags!
  • Next, allow your new pet to explore the rest of the house while the resident dog stays outside in the yard. Alternately, have the resident cats wait in the vacated doggy isolation room to become more familiar with his strange smells, while the new dog sniffs around the rest of the house.
  • Install a baby gate in the isolation room so the pair can meet at their own speed but through the safety of the barrier.
  • Once the new pet feels comfortable navigating your house and meeting the other pet through the baby gate, prepare for whisker-to-whisker meetings. Avoid fanfare. Put the dog on a leash and then open the baby gate and watch what happens. Keep the pets away from halls, doorways or other closely confined spaces during initial meetings. An open room with lots of space reduces tension and gives the cat places to escape and you more control. The leash controls doggy lunges just in case.
  • Feed both pets during this initial meeting, on opposite ends of a room to distract them and also help them associate FOOD with each others’ presence. Peanut butter treats work well for dogs, and a stinky canned cat food for cats. Make these treats only available when the other animal is nearby to associate each other with good stuff.
  • Alternatively, engage them in play. Whoever your dog feels closest to should interact with the cat, so Rex sees YOU accept the kitty and will be more willing to follow his beloved owner’s example. Please be aware–unlike dogs, cats play SILENTLY, so if your cat vocalizes during interaction with the dog, the kitty isn’t happy. Separate them and try again later.
  • Continue to segregate the new pet in her safe room whenever you cannot directly supervise the pair. Most cats can jump over or can squeeze through the baby gate and regulate interactions. Continue to offer more planned meetings for another week, monitoring the dog until he can control himself and respects the cat even when off-leash.

REALISTIC GOALS FOR CAT AND DOG INTRODUCTIONS

Some pets become fast friends very quickly. Others dislike each other and always require supervision. Usually, pets learn to tolerate each other, especially if you’ve followed the match-making tips previously mentioned.

MagicMeetsSeren

It took time, but eventually with some very-yummy-cat-treats Seren deigned to come within sight of the Magical-Pup. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

We began introductions six months before Magic even arrived, We installed a dog crate and pet gates in the kitchen, and moved the litter box to a safe place. After the puppy arrived, we took it slow. It took Seren three months to come downstairs when Magic was awake in the kitchen, but she finally got curious and peeked under the blanket that covered the baby gate. It took her another three months to feel comfortable enough to tell him off.

Seren never cared for Magic. She finally learned to tolerate him, mostly because we made sure the dog knew the CAT ruled and could do no wrong. As she got older, and couldn’t run as fast, she allowed him closer and he always respected her hisses to back off.

Magic-Karma

Magic alerted me that Karma-the-Stray needed our help, so it’s only natural they’re best buddies. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

MAGIC ADOPTS A CAT

When Karma came home, it was love at first sight between the kitten and German Shepherd. Magic finally had a cat that would (SWOON!) let him sniff kitty tail! The introduction that took six-nine months with Magic and Seren only lasted three days between these best friends. Karma-Kat had already met dogs in his previous life, and loved them.

After Magic left this world, we adopted Bravo-Dawg as much to satisfy Karma’s yearning for a dog friend as our own. He looked very different, and introductions took about two weeks before Karma decided to adopt Bravo-Dawg as his new best friend. Because of the great size difference (Bravo 120 pounds, and Karma 12 pounds), we supervised constantly.

INTRODUCING CATS TO DOGS

Then Shadow-Pup arrived, and we needed to introduce him to both Bravo and to Karma. The puppy clearly had been around other dogs and gave Bravo all the right puppy-subordinate signals. They became friends within the week–still supervised, again because of the size difference, and Bravo’s potential pain issues from his cancer.

Shadow had the benefit of watching Bravo’s behavior with Karma, and the cat knew exactly how to handle the pup. Today the pair play chase, “bitey-face” wrestling games, and adore each other. We’re fortunate but I don’t take it for granted and we constantly monitor and reinforce good behavior. Read more about Bravo, Shadow, and Karma intros in this fun post with pictures.

So what are you waiting for? Maybe another pet needs you–and your dog wants a kitty friend of his very own, or your cat would love to have a dog to snuggle (or tell off!). Take it from Magic, Bravo, Shadow, and Karma–as long as you introduce them right, a cat and dog can be best friends.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Get the Sweet Smell of Success Choosing a New Cat Litter: Here’s How

For those of us who live with cats, and especially multi-cat households, choosing new cat litter is a very big deal. My Seren-Kitty (age 20!) and Karma-Kat have very different potty behavior, with the expected stink-icity. Cat litter odor offends us all, so it’s important to choose a new cat litter wisely. Read about kinds of litter and the history of litter here.

NOTE: This is an update of an older post. Even though Seren-Kitty has transitioned to her next life, much of the information remains helpful.

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Seren (left) and Karma rule my life–and that’s the way it should be, right?

AN ODOR-FREE HOME IS A HAPPY HOME

Cat litter odor means the world to cats. I’ve been “auditioning” several different cat litters over the past nine months or so. My old lady cat, Seren, is in early kidney disease and urinates a LOT. She also has decided to leave her “solids” uncovered. That may be to give an odiferous and visual message to the young interloper, Karma, or perhaps her paw-arthritis makes it painful to dig. Read this post for tips dealing with old cats.

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Karma’s facilities are in the master bath to contain his digging antics. We use a jumbo-size storage bin…and yes, he’s got a nice view of the stained glass to inspire him. Note: We recently relocated his box from the tub, into the laundry room. Read about that here.

Karma is more than twice her size, with understandably jumbo-size deposits. We were maintaining odor control pretty well (I’m a fanatic about keeping boxes clean) until Karma decided he should claim both his own big litter box in our master bathroom and Seren’s smaller one in the living room. He can barely turn around in that little thing…but he’s determined.

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I have another very large, low-sided litter box in my office upstairs…but when Seren decided this corner next to the piano was preferable, I listened. It gives her a clear view to avoid Karma-Monster.

CAT LITTER ODOR MATTERS TO YOU & CATS

Yeah, cat litter odor next to the piano. Oy. I was spending a LOT of time cleaning, swapping out box contents, changing from one litter to another, and keeping paws crossed that wouldn’t upset the kitties. After all, if the smell bothered me, the cats also could get hissed off. Humans typically have five to 20 million scent analyzing cells, compared to the cat’s 67 million. The king of scenting animals, the Blood Hound, has 300 million olfactory cells.

And German Shepherds, like Magical-Dawg, actually LIKE the pee-poo cat smell. So we not only had an odor issue but a nasty-dog-treat issue.

The bigger issue is–when the litter box odor bothers YOU, it bothers CATS and they’ll find another place to get creative. Complicating matters, litter with heavy perfumes also STINK to the cat, and they’ll also snub the litter box. That can mean some cats lose their homes or even their lives.

IT’S UP TO THE CAT

Cat litter box problems are the top complaint I get as a certified animal behavior consultant. I take it very seriously in my own home, and bottom line, it’s up to the cat to decide. It doesn’t matter nearly so much if I love the litter or hate it. My Seren-Kitty and Karma-Kat have veto power.

Because we have an off-white carpet, I’m not a fan of dark color litter. Pretty much all litter tracks, and it looks worse when the color contrasts. I’m also not a fan of very heavy clay products–my shoulders protest lugging the containers. And I’m really not a fan of strongly perfumed litter products. Yes, I’ve had all sorts of substrates in the box, and for the most part, my cats have been very flexible (I’m very lucky!). But with a variety of products from which to choose, the chances are good that one will fit even the most persnickety human’s (or cat’s) preference.

When you find a product your cats use religiously, don’t mess with success. Stick with the one your cats vote to use with their (ahem) liquid and solid approval.

CHOOSING A NEW LITTER

When choosing a new cat litter product, it’s best to keep one box the same. You don’t want to bet on the cat liking something new and have the cat veto you in no uncertain terms.

At the beginning of October, I changed Seren’s small litter box next to the piano. I left Karma’s box status quo for a couple of weeks. It’s never a good idea to abruptly change all options at once, so I wanted to make sure that both cats still had a choice (so my off white carpet wouldn’t turn another shade of crappiocca).

Seren immediately accepted the new product, yay! And within only a couple of days, my husband no longer asked me, “Did you scoop the box yet?” The cat litter odor did, indeed, disappear even though Karma decided he liked the smaller living room potty even better!

So now both the downstairs litter boxes contain the new litter, both cats are using their facilities, and Magical-Dawg has stopped “snacking.”


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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!